Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Water potential gradients for gaps and slopes in a Panamanian tropical moist forest's dry season

Peter Beckera1*, Peter E. Rabenolda1, Jacquelyn R. Idola1 and Alan P. Smitha1

a1 Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Aptdo 2072, Balboa, Republica de Panamá


Soil water potentials were measured weekly by psychrometers at 20 cm depth during the dry season in a tropical moist forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. There was a persistent gradient of decreasing soil moisture from gap centre to gap edge to adjacent understorey at both a large and a small gap. On both a north-south and an east-west transect, the soil was drier (water potentials were more negative) on an upland surface than on moderate slopes. This trend was reflected in the predawn, total water potentials of shallow-rooted Psychotria horizontalis and deep-rooted Trichilia tuberculata measured in the understorey during the last two months of the dry season. P. horizontalis from the wettest sites on the transects had higher osmotic potentials at full hydration and at zero turgor, indicating less drought resistance than for conspecifics from the driest sites.

(Accepted September 30 1987)


* Offprint requests to Becker c/o World Wildlife Fund, 1250 Twenty-Fourth St, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA.